THE FOURTH of July is rapidly approaching and as our nation's independence day draws closer, the public will be eagerly anticipating the festive displays of fireworks that will be illuminating the summer sky.
Locally, every town from Martins Ferry's Sky Show to the numerous displays slated for the July 4 holiday in Wheeling and seemingly every other surrounding town, citizens flock in droves to 'ooh and aah' as the bright colors and loud bangs liven up the night.
But as we all know, the love of fireworks doesn't begin and end with July 4 celebrations. Nor are the displays limited to official events, monitored by safety officials and set off by highly trained professionals.
The legality, or lack thereof, of personal use of fireworks never seems to stop residents, young and old alike, in every state from purchasing fireworks to set off in their backyards.
While fireworks are sold and used year round, their usage seems to culminate on the 4th of July and the days and weeks leading up to it.
That's why June is designated as Fireworks Safety Month. It's to get people in the right frame of mind before they set out on their porch, match or lighter in hand, ready for some fun.
We've all heard horror stories of little Timmy, who didn't listen to his parents and stood too close to a packet of firecrackers or an M-80 as it exploded. We know that little Timmy is likely missing a finger or two.
But they aren't just stories meant to scare kids and get adults to pay attention. Injuries can and do happen.
A sudden ignition of powder inside the fireworks can cause of concussive blast. True, said blast is not nearly as forceful as say, one from a hand grenade. But that doesn't make standing too close to fireworks any less dangerous.
There's also a risk of getting burned.
Yes folks, injuries do happen and there are numbers to back up that fact.
For example, in 2005, nearly 11,000 people were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
All fireworks are dangerous if not handled properly. And yes, that does include sparklers.
You know sparklers. As a kid, you got all excited when mom or dad went inside to bring out the fireworks for that night's display, only to be disappointed when all that was brought was a box of sparklers.
The only thing more "thrilling" was the box of snakes.
But sparklers can cause injuries, especially to younger children who seem to be tasked with holding the sparkling sticks while the adults prepare to light the good stuff.
Sparklers can burn at more than 1,000?F and set clothes on fire. And no little kid is worried about the burning temperature of a sparkler when you hand one to them. They are concerned with the pretty lights and trying to write their name in the air before the sparkler stops burning.
The Ohio State Fire Marshall asks parents to be extra careful when giving sparklers to their children and asks that parents follow simple guidelines provided by the National Council on Fireworks Safety.
Most of these guidelines are common sense. But you've no doubt seen some of these rules being ignored, especially when alcohol, adults and fireworks are involved.
Who hasn't witnessed bottle rockets being shot out of beer bottles?
Who hasn't witnessed kids, or even adults, engaged in a battle with Roman candles, running around and trying to avoid being hit by a flaming ball.
The idiocy displayed every summer when it comes to fireworks is too difficult to count. It's a miracle there aren't more injuries every summer.
There's a reason there is a saying "when you play with fire, you might get burned." If you're not careful you will get burnt.
In Ohio, you can legally purchase 1.4g fireworks from a licensed wholesaler or manufacturer.
However, you legally cannot discharge any consumer of 1.4g fireworks in Ohio. All must be transported out of state within 48 hours of purchase.
Legally, the average citizen is only able to use "trick and novelty" items. You know, they are the ones that smoke, pop and/or sparkle. They aren't the ones that go boom. And they certainly aren't the ones that ascend into the sky screaming before making a loud boom and exploding into bright colors.
In Ohio, personal use of fire crackers, bottle rockets and the like is illegal.
And yet, we've all seen them being used, or at least heard them late one summer evening.
The laws are in place for a reason; to protect the citizenry. But no matter what you're doing, take caution, play it safe and don't do anything stupid. You could end up seriously hurting yourself and/or others.
And this is coming from a self-professed casual pyro.
I like fire. From bonfires to fireplaces, candles to campfires, you name it. If it's burning, it's caught my interest. Naturally, I'm a big fan of fireworks celebrations.
I also know that I have no business putting on my own backyard fireworks display.
I was lucky. I made it through my youth without any serious accidents
Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleader online.com